I like the word ‘neuroatypical’.*
Because ‘neurodivergent’ sounds vaguely dystopia-esque, ‘mentally ill’ doesn’t cover everything and doesn’t apply to everyone, and because anything with the word ‘normal’ in it screams FREAK.
So ‘atypical’ works.
But a lot of people seem to have no idea how any of this shit goes.
Now, I can only speak for me. Because I am me only, and no one else, but I can speak for myself best.
I, myself, have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, depression, and complex PTSD. A few mental health professionals have also suspected that I fall somewhere on the autism spectrum, but I’m too old to be tested for it now. I do tend to identify with the autistic community to the point that if I’m not on the spectrum, I am the most freakishly autistic symptomatic non autistic person on the planet.
*(Yes it’s a newer word. And it’s made up, just like every other word. Seriously. ‘Selfie’ is a ‘made up’ word. ‘Texting’ is a verb now. We, as human beings, make up words as needed.)
All of this means that I don’t function in the world the way a typical person might.
Plenty of people’s idea of ‘mentally ill’ is the street guy who has conversations with thin air who has been self medicating with alcohol for too many years, the kind that parents pull their kids away from.
(In truth, these types of people can be unnerving, but they’re usually not dangerous. The fear people feel upon seeing them is due to their erratic behavior triggering a sense of ‘not right’, not that the people themselves are actually dangerous.)
That’s not me. Talking to me on a good day, you wouldn’t even be able to tell. The good days I am vibrant, a hummingbird, radiant.
But that is not every day. Or even half of my days.
Some days I am so exhausted going outside seems impossible and getting out of bed takes an hour and a half. Fatigue is a symptom; since my body is near-constantly in a state of high alert, I run out of energy a lot faster, especially if I encounter other people.
Other days I am so high strung everything is a raw nerve. I can’t sit still, but I can’t bear to go outside. I putter around, flinching at loud noises, anything brushing against me. I pick at my skin, twist my hair around my fingers, yank.
My worst days I can’t bear to be touched, I can’t function at all. I grab things and smash them and sob and then feel like I can’t move, but oddly peaceful.
There are fewer of those days now.
But this is what my life is like, and I can understand why it’s easier to demand that I change rather than try and understand people like me.
But the fact is, one way or the other, this is who I am, and I have to live my life this way.And understanding is something I want to hope for.